Let’s Give the OPC a Class Name–USCGC Newcomb (WMSM-915)

The procurement process for the Offshore Patrol Cutters is well underway. Three conceptual designs have been selected for further development. Challenges to the selection process have been rejected. There should be decision on the final design and contractor about the end of next year.

Perhaps the ships might feel closer to reality if there were a class name. I like the fact that we have been naming ships for notable figures in the history of the Coast Guard and its predecessor services as was done for the Bertholf and Webber Class cutters. Lets continue that with the Offshore Patrol Cutters.


Frank H. Newcomb

Our friend Bill Wells tells the story of First Lieutenant, Frank H. Newcomb (Captain Commandant upon retirement), CO of the Hudson when it towed the Navy torpedo boat Winslow to safety from under Spanish guns in the port of Cardenas, Cuba during the Spanish American War.


Revenue Cutter Hudson towing USS Winslow while underfire from Spanish guns.

Newcomb was honored by the Navy as namesake for a Fletcher class destroyer, DD-586, USS Newcomb. She had a short but eventful history. In spite of not being commissioned until November 1943. She and another ship sank the Japanese submarine, I-185. She provided naval gun fire support at Saipan, Leyte, Iwo Jima, and Okinawa. As flagship of destroyer squadron 56, she lead a night torpedo attack on a Japanese Fleet during the Battle of Surigao Strait. She scored at least one torpedo hit on the Battleship Yamashiro, which was sunk in the battle, and like her namesake, while under fire, she towed a damaged ship, USS Albert W. Grant (DD-649), to safety. Off Okinawa she survived five (or six) Kamikaze hits.

USS Newcomb, DD-586, after taking at least four and possibly as many as six kamikaze strikes

Newcomb’s career was not limited to his time on the Hudson. This short biography (pdf) by Atlantic Area Historian William H. Thiesen also talks about his peacetime leadership, and how Admiral Waesche personal chose Newcomb as namesake for a destroyer as the best representative of the Coast Guard.


“While Newcomb distinguished himself commanding a cutter in battle, he spent much of his career working as a field officer and inspector for the United States Life-Saving Service. Throughout his career, Newcomb championed the rights of those whose efforts merited recognition and promotion. For example, when he had received the medal for his wartime exploits, he insisted that Hudson’s crew receive specially struck medals as well, and the cook and stewards mate became the first African Americans to receive such recognition.

“Many in the Coast Guard as well as the general public have heard the story of the service’s only African American Live-Saving Service crew, which manned North Carolina’s Pea Island Life-Saving Station beginning in 1880. Few may realize that it was locally assigned U.S. Life-Saving Service inspector, Lieutenant Frank Newcomb, who worked diligently behind the scenes to institute an African American crew at that station. In fact, the local community opposed the establishment of an African American manned lifesaving station and arsonists burned down the original station. Newcomb had to camp out at the remote site of the burned out Pea Island station during construction of a new building to prevent sabotage a second time. While no one should diminish the accomplishments of the Pea Island Station’s courageous African American crew, it was Newcomb who risked his career and reputation to institute Pea Island’s African American crew in the racially-charged South following the Civil War.”

There has never been a Coast Guard vessel named for Newcomb. I think it is about time.

If you have any other suggestions for namesakes for the class, please add them in the comments section.

33 thoughts on “Let’s Give the OPC a Class Name–USCGC Newcomb (WMSM-915)

  1. While I have nothing against naming the cutters after notable people in USCG history, I do miss the idea of naming them after coastal features, like the Island Class, Point Class, and even the Bay Class cutters.

    I would love to see this tradition continue with the OPC’s… Who knows, maybe the Reef Class could provide some memorable cutter names, that is as long as they don’t end up on one…

  2. I think we should keep the famous class spirit going and name them after the first ten cutters, all of the current famous class and some of the 210s. Between all of the 87 replacements, construction tenders, and small aton cutters there should be plenty of hulls for all of the bushes, bay, trees, and fish you could hope to use.

  3. The naming of the Webber Class began as a good idea but the naming board fell to the power of emotionalism and politics. They were supposed to be named for Coast Guard enlisted heroes. However, about half so far have been named for LSS and LHS people whom were neither enlisted, Coast Guard, or heroic.

    Bill Theisen forgot to mention that Newcomb also spent 15 years (about half of his career) at sea. Even R. R. Waesche only spent 18 years on sea duty. I am not sure the Coast Guard and RCS has enough people to fill the important captain class. This would depend upon how much money the Coast Guard is willing to spend to do the research. So far, it has spent virtually nothing on chasing down the names for the Webber Class.

    Also Captain Commandant was not equivalent to a flag rank today. It was a unique rank in the RCS and a designator for the person heading the service. There were two service chiefs in the Coast Guard with that rank –Bertholf and Reynolds. Reynolds was allowed to wear a Read Admirals uniform and be called a Rear Admiral but he was, by the 1915 law establishing the Coast Guard, a Captain Commandant. The title was eliminated about 1924 in favor of the Navy rank.

    I believe naming a cutter for Newcomb is a good idea and should be considered. Also, change all the buoy tenders back to flowers, trees, and shrubs. I like being an IRIS.

    • I feel that in order to name a cutter after him we would first have to recognize the bigotry of the presidency and the naval department had towards the revenue cutter service at the time (1898). And officially award him the medal of honor. If the president can do it for all the minorities 70 years after WW2 then he can do it for this. JMO

      • In 1898 Newcomb was a civilian. He was not entitled to the MOH.

        The CG likes to peddle the lie of them being an Armed Service since 1790, but by federal law it has only been one since 1915.

  4. Bravo – A fine idea indeed. Newcomb would be a perfect name ship for the Offshore Patrol Cutters. His exploit at the helm of the Tug Hudson is often forgotten. And number two OPC name should be Stone for the first CG Aviator.
    JIM FLYNN, Historian CG Tug Assn.

  5. Lyle, Some of the bigotry came from within the Treasury Department. Sumner I. Kimball fought against the RCS having anything that would promote them toward a pension system.

    piero, construction tenders are named for tools. Small AtoN vessels (under 65-feet) have no names. This would be a good time to redefine what a “cutter” is. I say go back to the WWII standard of anything over 83-feet or those with a patrol function.

  6. bill, only a handful of the tenders are named for tool, the other 36 aren’t. We’ve named enough of cutter after people. There are thousands of Coasties that proudly served on cutters for the last 230+ years. I’d rather show homage to them rather than a small number of officers. I’d much rather carry on the names of the current MECs and add back in the remaining first 10 names. Carrying on the name of a cutter pays tribute to all of the cuttermen that sailed their namesake over its life.

    • If it were up to me, and it ain’t, there would be no names of people used. I have always like the more positive adjectives used for the Reliance Class 210s. Simple, direct, and true to the cause.

      One purpose of using names it to place history in the daily conscience of the people who serve them. This rarely happens.

      There was a time when the crews of ships were called by the names of the ships. I rather liked being a Dependable rather than a Katherine.

      I did not know there were 36 WLICs in service.

      • There aren’t 36 WLICs, what I was referring to was the total number of inland tugs and tenders that aren’t named after tools. For clarification:

        WLIC-160 – 4
        WLIC-100 – 1
        WLIC-75 – 8 (These are named after tools)
        WTGB-140 – 9
        WLI-100 – 2
        WLI-65 – 2
        WLR-75 – 12 (One is named after a tool, WEDGE)
        WLR-65 – 6
        WYTL-65 – 11 (Also named after tools)

        In summary 20 are named after tools and 35 are named after other things. I was off by one 🙂 The rest seem to be named after rivers, bays and bushes.

      • well the former Commandant decided that the FRC’s would be named for Enlisted Hero’s (despite the fact that Bernie Webber was a retired CWO). So naming a smaller class of vessels after officer hero’s would be fitting.

      • Unfortunately, other than Munro, our enlisted heroes were largely unrecognized, so limiting a class to enlisted heroes was probably a good idea, but other classes including the NSC are taking their heroes from all sources. I’ve been working on coming up with a list of candidates.

    • Recycling former cutter names is both proper and appealing, but on the other hand it does nothing to honor Coast Guard aviators, something we can do by naming ships after individuals.

      • Aviators can stick with getting buildings named after them. I’m not looking to honor aviators with ships. The only reason I can stomach Stone is that he was a cuttermen first. He dabbled with aviation for awhile and then he went back to being a cuttermen.

      • Piero,
        All the early aviators were cuttermen. In the 1930s, they complained about not getting enough flight time to remain proficient. The counter argument from Ballard was that Coast Guard officers were sea officers and they had to maintain sea proficiency to be eligible for promotion. This was a legacy of the Revenue Cutter Service from where all the senior officers of the era came. Billard’s fear was that if aviators were allowed to dismiss sea duty this would cause the development of a special corps within the officer corps and remove the only common linkage they all had with each other as a culture.

        Waesche followed this line and to keep enough qualified pilots they began adding more enlisted pilots that would not be a bad idea today (well, warrant officers). The Coast Guard had lost much of its core culture by the infusion of non-naval orientated DCAs. I am not sure that anyone in Coast Guard aviation today subscribes to the sea culture so it may be difficult to rebuild the overall culture into the Coast Guard. Coast Guard Aviation is no different from the Life Saving Stations.

        Their only legislated role is humanitarian. This was the agreement the Coast Guard made in the 1916 discussions creating the air service for the Coast Guard (not funded until 1928). The Coast Guard promised not to compete with the Army and Navy for military roles.

        Billard was right about the separation, but in reality to keep the aviators away from their training and expertise was counter productive to the growth of the Coast Guard. An old friend, a DCA, once told me he stayed in his flight suit far too long. This impacted on his personal and professional growth in the Coast Guard. Perhaps, aviators, like in the Navy, should return to sea from time to time in a command or administrative role. I would add the career “M” folk to this list. Anyone ever name a cutter for an “M” officer? If I had vote, I’d throw Godfrey Carden’s name in the ring.

  7. Originally the naming convention for the WMEC replacement under ex-Deepwater was to be famous maritime operations i.e.: Greenland (for the Greenland Patrol of WWII), Mariel (the Cuban boat lift), etc. No idea if that was continued under the current procurement plan.

    How about a class named for edged weapons? Cutlass, Spear, Battle Axe, Stilleto, etc. It would send us back to being able to recognize a cutter by class such as the Points, Capes, Bays, and such. There is actually a board that decides what things will be named. I proposed this years ago when Deepwater was still talking about composite hulls for the 110WPB replacements but the naming conventions had supposedly already been picked (although the Capt. in charge of the board did think it was a cool idea).

    • Maritime operations such as Texas, Piracy, Seminole (a cutter was named this in the tribe series), Cuba, Canada, (the anti-filibuster work) and Slavery? Of course, the latter would have to explain the dichotomy of enforcing the 1807 Anti-Importation Act and the Fugitive Slave Laws simultaneously.

    • I like the major maritime operations convention…although the USCGC Deepwater Horizon or Exxon Valdez would be wierd.

      • They should also include in the strange naming standards those major CG social experiments as well (ex. Work-Life, Blue-Binder, TQM, QAT, Core Values, Team Award, Quality Council, Facilitator, Natural Working Group, etc…)

  8. Does not this cutter class already have a designation of WMSM? Was not OPC the fired Deepwater contractor’s term?

  9. Pat, They also named one for a Lieutenant. If memory serves, his “heroism” was as a officer.

    As far as Newcomb being a “civilian” there could be some hair splitting. The Hudson and others were ordered to serve under the Navy. The Act of 1799 gave the cutters the authority and put the RCS officers on “naval service” and as such entitled them to the pay and perks. There are enough examples of this since 1799. However, NO officer was entitled to the Medal of Honor. Despite that, one was given to Ens. Bagley who’s only feat was to die on Winslow. In the 1990s, a misguided Congress gave one to Teddy Roosevelt who was not in federal service. He served as a volunteer Lt. Col.

  10. I admit I did get a certain amount of pride being on a ship named for a legacy cutter, Campbell. believe a lot of my ship mates did as well. a tradition worth continuing imo.

  11. Pingback: What’s in a Name | Chuck Hill's CG Blog

  12. Pingback: Hero Names for the OPCs | Chuck Hill's CG Blog

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